Location: 2867A Dundas Street West, Toronto
The Hole in the Wall is a delightful little spot in the Junction (with a fairly generous streetside patio) that specializes in various sourdough shenanigans: they’ve got sourdough loaves, sourdough bagels, and what I ordered — sourdough pizza.
I tried a couple of pizzas: the margherita (“fior di latte, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, tomato sauce”) and the cacio e pepe (“white base, zucchini, pecorino, black pepper”).
They were both delicious. As you’d expect from a place that specializes in sourdough, the crust was stellar — it’s got a great balance between fluffiness and chewiness, and a nice sourdough flavour that really pops. It’s a crispier than a standard Neapolitan-style pizza, but it totally works.
It’s also very aggressively charred, but it never crosses the line into burnt territory. The char adds a subtle bitterness that contrasts nicely with the more flavourful dough.
As for the pizzas themselves, they were both great (and translating the creamy, peppery bite of cacio e pepe to a pizza is actually fairly ingenious), though not surprisingly, I preferred the margherita. I’ve said it many times before — I think a good margherita pizza is a perfect food, and this was a very good one.
Location: 122 Geary Avenue, Toronto
Famiglia Baldassare is a busy place. I knew this before I even went there, and yet I was still surprised at how busy it was.
It doesn’t help that the place is absolutely tiny, with maybe four or five small tables. It gets packed immediately, so your odds of snagging a table are slim.
My dining companion and I wound up eating on one of the handful of tables outside (that may or may not have belonged to the neighbouring coffee shop). It was cold and drizzly, and yet as soon as I started eating that amazing hand-made pasta, it all clicked into place. Totally worth it.
The “restaurant” is actually a side business for Famiglia Baldassare; mostly, they supply freshly-made pasta to various restaurants around the GTA. But if you come at lunch during the week (and are willing to brave the aforementioned crowds), you can choose between two delicious pasta dishes.
On this particular visit, it was cacio e pepe and carbonara. I went with the carbonara, which was indulgently rich without feeling overly heavy. It was cheesy and silky and amazing, with satisfying pops of meatiness from the guanciale. It was maybe a touch too salty, and I wish the guanciale had been crisped up a bit more (it wasn’t really crispy at all), but it was otherwise a superb bowl of carbonara.
And then of course there’s the pasta itself, which is the real star of the show. A really good fresh pasta is radically different from the dried stuff you can buy at the supermarket. It’s got that dense, chewy texture that’s fairly irresistible. It’s so good.
Also: don’t pass on the bread they have off to the side. It’s some of the best bread I’ve had in a while, so clearly, everything here is pretty great.